A Johnson County, Texas man has been arrested for shining green laser lights into the cockpits of airplanes. He has been charged with a state criminal misdemeanor but federal charges will most likely be filed.
The man shined the lights into more than a dozen cockpits, including Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, American Jet, and FedEx planes over a period of three nights.
Fox4 News in Dallas-Fort Worth reported that three pilots reported the problem on Sunday night, and six pilots on Monday, and three more on Tuesday. All of the pilots said the light came from Alvarado, a city which is just south of Fort Worth.
Officials began searching for the source of the light on Monday night.
The Dallas Morning News reported that Lynn Lunsford, the Mid-States Public Affairs Manager for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said that four pilots heading into Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Dallas Love Field reported that their cockpits were hit with a “blindingly bright green light.”
The Dallas and Fort Worth police departments and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) located the source of the laser as Austin Lawrence Siferd’s home.
Johnson County deputies arrested Siferd on Tuesday night.
According to the Dallas Morning News, while the helicopters were conducting their search, both a Fort Worth police chopper and a DPS chopper were hit with the laser. The DPS chopper caught the laser assault on film and the camera was used to target the exact address of the light.
Siferd has been charged with misdemeanor illumination of aircraft by intense light but federal charges will probably be filed. The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office said that federal investigators are planning to interview Siferd.
Shining an intense light or laser into a plane cockpit can temporarily blind or distract pilots and is a federal crime. The FAA has a regional anti-laser task force which was formed in 2012 to deal with cockpit-light interference. The problem has been increasing over the last several years.
According to the Dallas Morning News, a 23-year-old was sentenced to eight months in June for shining a laser at a DPS helicopter. Steven Alexander Chavez Jr. could have been received a five year sentence and a $250,000 fine.
Kenneth Santodomingo was given a 30-month sentence in 2013 after he pled guilty to shining a light at a Dallas police helicopter.
A press release from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office stated, “At this point the suspect turned over the green laser to deputies and admitted that he had been using it to point at aircraft, not realizing that it was actually strong enough to reach the aircraft.”
Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as a prosecutor and an associate judge. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2